Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Homegrown Harvest": sustainable kitchen gardens for all!

This is the current state of the metal guardian figure in the erstwhile flower/ vegetable bed in the back of my house. The white stuff had all melted, and visions of daffodils, lilies, and tulips were dancing in my head, when we were were walloped by yet another late-season snowstorm.
I live in a townhouse, and am no spring chicken, so according to Homegrown Harvest: A Season-by-Season Guide to a Sustainable Kitchen Garden, a raised bed such as that covered up above is just the ticket for moi. Here are the 10 benefits of raised beds cited in the book:
  1. They allow easy access and require less bending.
  2. Soil in them warms up more quickly in spring.
  3. You can plant closer and get higher yields.
  4. Well-constructed ones provide apple growing depth and excellent drainage.
  5. You can import new soil that is most appropriate for your crop.
  6. One raised bed is less daunting than a large vegetable garden and may be the best way to begin.
  7. Raised beds can be made in any shape, and from any material to match the style of your garden.
  8. Row covers, netting, and plant supports are easy to manage in them.
  9. Well-maintained raised beds provide an attractive landscape feature.
  10. Paths around raised beds allow the soil within the bed to remain uncompressed by treading, thereby protecting the structure.
Voila! lots of thriving green stuff for your table.
Is there anything more delectable than a strawberry or tomato plucked fresh from the vine? If you too are sick to death of lethal pesticides and genetically modified food, then Homegrown Harvest will serve as a primer on how you can produce your own home-grown goodness, tailoring the offerings to your specific likes and circumstances. The New York Times praised the book as a whole, saying that it "manages the neat trick of being both handsome and handy — qualities as useful in a book as in a fellow gardener. The instructions are so simple and clear, as are the planting suggestions, that anyone will feel confident enough to till the soil. This is also one of the few garden books around that aren’t afraid to show some dirt in their illustrations. Why this trend in squeaky-clean garden pictures?"
From the common to the exotic, this handy volume has it all—from growing flowers to drying herbs for winter use; from testing soil and growing seedlings to grafting and pruning fruit trees. Not to mention tips for banishing slugs, foiling squirrels and birds, and circumventing blossom end rot. A plethora of photos and detailed directions ensure you won't stray from the path of producing beautiful, bountiful results. Tips for harvesting, storing, and preserving food are provided as well.
Library Journal also gave the book its seal of approval:
You don't have to be a land baron to grow successfully your own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even edible flowers. The American Horticultural Society here provides step-by-step instruction, applicable to all temperate regions and climates throughout North America, for the average gardener to sustain a year-round kitchen garden. Color photos inspire and illustrate how to perform a wide variety of essential chores and techniques, from soil preparation to pruning and beyond. Correct timing and coordination of growing activities are emphasized….  Insect and disease control are covered, with charts of fruit and vegetable pests and diseases. The society's sowing and harvesting charts for fruits and vegetables, which are both region- and climate-specific, are designed to take any guesswork out of planning crops. Verdict: This comprehensive and well-organized text will be useful to both beginners and experienced gardeners.... Thumbs up!
If you're interested in various aspects of choosing, growing, or preserving healthy, delicious food—and who isn't?—then have a look at the latest Daedalus Books Forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." We've curated books that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals!).

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